I’ve purposefully waited a few weeks to write about this, because after completing the discard phase of the KonMari method, I wanted to mull over the experience. It took me a little over 15 weeks to go through everything in the house, and it’s now been about a month since I finished. Here’s what I learned.
I’ve learned how to listen to my own intuition and feelings. This, of course, is the central point of the KonMari method, and where it radically differs from other methods of decluttering. You don’t need to listen to any other voice, really, but your own – no other advice, no ‘voice of reason’, no ’10 questions to ask yourself to help declutter’, etc. I discovered that this was precisely what I had never done before, really ask myself what I genuinely thought and felt about an item, and give myself the freedom to act on it, without justification. By extension, this has given me a lot more self-awareness and backbone more generally. I feel more skilled at saying what I like and want, or don’t.
I have also learned to be clearer with myself about the purpose that items serve, which not only helps me know whether I need them in the first place, but makes it clear when their purpose is finished. I discovered that I had a habit of keeping things out of a vague sense of obligation or possible use, but no clear idea of purpose.
It’s okay to feel some regret at getting rid of things; it probably won’t last. And indeed I did sometimes feel sad, either at the moment of discarding something, or days later when I realised the import of whatever I had done. I used to think that the benchmark of a good decision would be never regretting it for an instant. Now I think that it’s possible to feel sad discarding something, even when you know it brings you no joy and you don’t want it anymore. However, I also think that, most likely, you could get rid of almost anything and it would be okay in the end. Most of my short-term regrets vanished after a while.
I’m not a minimalist. I hesitate to say this only because when you start reading about minimalism, it seems like the term ‘means whatever you want it to mean’, which is to say it’s nearly meaningless. But I think minimalism is about having the least amount that is beneficial/necessary/valuable. And the KonMari method is not about minimalism. I think the biggest difference between the two is that minimalism tends to focus on relinquishing your ties to physical things; whereas the KonMari method is about understanding those ties and truly valuing the things you love. What I have learned is that material things are, for me, an important way of experiencing the world, and I don’t see a need to make myself feel any differently, nor do I need to work hard at having less if I am content with what I do have. What the KonMari method has helped me to do is have a more balanced understanding of my relationship with things, so that I spend less time clinging to everything in a panic, and am more able to articulate how I feel and decide what to do.
A final question: Is this method life-changing, as the title of the book claims? Initially I thought this was a vaunted claim. And I would say that if you consider the KonMari method to be about physically tidying up a space, then it would only be life-changing if your house were really messy to start with. But having completed the method, I now think that it’s not really about a clean house; it’s about traveling through your own life and witnessing your hopes, plans, and your past self, through the medium of your belongings. The goal is to deal with the memories and emotions you attach to things, experiencing them fully and then making a conscious decision to understand and take action on them. The sense of peace and clarity that comes at the end of this process is not solely because the space is neat, but because you have truly dealt with everything there.